I want to continue my comparison of athletes to writers. Both athletes and writers enter competitions (the Olympics or other athletic contests for the athlete and writing contests or efforts to have a book published for the writer). Both enter with their best (best conditioning, best routine, or best manuscript). The competitors in the Olympics were selected to represent their countries from a pool of athletes. These are the best of the best. With writers, the manuscript entered in a contest or sent to an agent or editor is (supposedly) the best of what that writer can write. And the manuscripts selected by agents and editors are those that the agents and editors consider the best of the submissions they received.
Each country wants the athletes representing it to be winners. Each writer wants his or her book picked as a winner or selected to be published, and each publishing house wants the books it publishes to be best sellers.
But not all athletes win, not all manuscripts are selected, and not all books become best sellers.
In life there are losers…or times when we lose. It’s how the athlete or writer reacts to this that is important.
Both athletes and writers need to realize sometimes the decision of whom or what is the best is subjective. In gymnastics, synchronized swimming, and diving for example, one judge may see a performance quite differently from another. (Which is why they throw out the highest and lowest scores.) The same is true with writing. Most writers who enter contests will, at one time or another, receive conflicting scores and/or comments. One editor (or reviewer or reader) may see a book as great, another will pan it. I had that experience with romance I wrote years ago. My agent submitted the manuscript to two editors. One said she didn’t like the heroine and turned the book down. For two days I was in the dumps trying to think of ways to make my heroine more loveable, and then my agent called. The other editor absolutely loved my heroine, loved the story, and wanted to publish it. Same story, same heroine, nothing different except in the eyes of the editors. Moral: If you first don’t succeed, try, try again.
Sometimes athletes and writers make mistakes that cause their failure. The other night I watched the agony of one runner who made a false start and was automatically out of the race. All of that work to get there and his eagerness caused him to fail. Sometimes writers also do that to themselves. After working on a story for months, they get too eager and send it off before it’s ready. Or send it in a way that causes automatic rejection. Moral: Don’t rush. Make your story the best you possibly can, and read the guidelines.
Losing a competition, being rejected, or not reaching the New York Times list doesn’t mean you are a loser. Athletes who lose one year come back and win the next. Books that are rejected by multiple publishers go on to be mega-successes. If you have faced the Agony of Defeat, give yourself time to mourn or be angry. Cry, yell, do whatever you need to do to (I’ve been known to empty a bottle of wine.) and then give it another try.
Sometimes, simply being in the race and staying the course to end proves you’re not a loser.